Skip to main content
8081 IZ W1H
THE BATTLE OF SANPASQUAL
A Report of the California Historical Survey
Commission with Special Reference
to its Location
By OWEN C.,COY, Ph.D.
CALIFORNIA STATE PRINTING OFFICE
THE BATTLE OF SAN PASQUAL
A Report of the California Historical Survey
Commission with Special Reference
to its Location
By OWEN C. COY, Ph.D.
CALIFORNIA STATE PRINTING OFFICE
THE BATTLE OE SAN PASQIAL.
GIFT TO THE STATE.
In accordance with the provisions of an act of the Legislature approved
by the governor May 16, 1919, the State of California accepted
as a gift from Messrs. William G. Henshaw and Ed Fletcher one acre
of land said to be the site of the battle of San Pasqual, fought between
the forces of General S. W. Kearny and the native Californians
(Mexican) December 6 and 7, 1846. The act also provided that the
Historical Commission should prepare a narrative of the events con
nected with the battle; that it should determine the exact location of
the several engagements; and recommend some manner whereby the
state might suitably mark the site. In accordance with the act men
tioned, this report is respectfully submitted.
HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE.
The battle of San Pasqual, fought in the little valley of that name
located in the northern part of San Diego County, was one of the
bloodiest fought on Californian soil. The number of men engaged
was not large nor were the casualties numerous as compared with
battles of more recent wars. Its chief distinction lies in the fact that
it was a battle fought upon California soil, which fortunately has
been particularly free from bloody encounters.
The main events of the war with Mexico during the years 1846-1848
ire well known to the readers of American history. Upon July 7, 1846,
Commodore John D. Sloat raised the American Flag at Monterey and
during the succeding months the supremacy of the forces of the United
States was recognized throughout the territory of Alta California,
except by isolated bands of native Californian forces. One of these
was the band of Andres Pico just north of San Diego.
The United States Government, knowing of the impending war with
Mexico, had prepared for an attack upon California both by its naval
forces and by the army. Under instructions Commodore Sloat, as
before stated, took possession of the chief port and settlements during the
summer of 1846. To cooperate with the naval forces Colonel Stephen
W. Kearny was ordered to proceed overland, and after having taken
possession of New Mexico was to push on and hold California for the
United States. A letter of instructions from Secretary of War William
L. Marcy to Kearny is of value in giving an idea of his instructions and
the plan of action of which this battle was a part.
This letter, dated Washington, June 3, 1846, informed Kearny that
the President had decided, in view of the impending war with Mexico,
that the possession of Alta California was of prime importance; and
that an expedition with that object in view was therefore ordered and
A A A * *e?
tnat he was designated to command it. He was also informed that
an additional force of a thousand men had been provided to follow him
to Santa Fe, to which place he was directed to proceed; and he was
instructed, after making himself master of New Mexico, to press on with
his remaining force to California. He was to enlist such volunteers
as he might pick up along the way, the total enlistment not to exceed
one-third of his original force. He was permitted to choose his own
route, but it was suggested that the so-called "Caravan Route," by
which the old communication between that country and New Mexico
had been carried on, could be more easily traversed in winter time,
and the wish was expressed that he should reach California by winter.
It was expected that the United States naval forces would be in posses
sion of the Pacific seacoast by the time Kearny would arrive there,
and that they would cooperate with him in the conquest of the country.
However. Kearny was not definitely bound to a fixed program, for
Secretary Marcy s letter expressly stated that "A large discretionary
power is invested in you in regard to these matters, as well as to all
others." The letter of instructions ended with advice as to the govern
ment to be set up in the event of the conquest of California, and
instructions for the kind treatment of the Calif ornians.
Following the instructions, Colonel Kearny left Leavenworth about
tue end of June, occupied Santa Fe, and accomplished the conquest
of New Mexico, as directed, in August. Having succeeded thus far,
General Kearny, his commission as such having reached him at Santa
Fe, made preparations for carrying out the remainder of his instruc
tions, namely, those which dealt with the conquest of California.
He left Santa Fe on the twenty-fifth of September, 1846, having
before him a journey of over a thousand miles, a great portion of which
was absolute desert, A very interesting account of this journey is
given by Lieutenant Colonel W. H. Emory, one of Kearny s aides, in
his journal. Both he and Captain Johnston, another aide to Kearny,
kept diaries of their experiences on the overland trip to California.
However, the details of the trip, although very interesting, are not
essential to our story. The main facts of the trip may be obtained
from the following letter, the official report of General Kearny to his
superior officer, General R. Jones, sent after Kearny s arrival at San
HEADQUARTERS. ARMY OF THE WEST,
SAN DIEGO, UPPER CALIFORNIA, Dec. 12, 1846.
SIR: As I have previously reported to you, I left Santa Fe [New Mexico] for
this country on the 25th of September, with 300 of the First Dragoons under
Major Sunnier. We crossed to the bank of the Del Norte at Albuquerque, ((>."> miles
below Santa Fe,) continuing down on that bank till the 6th October, when we met
Mr. Kit Carson, with a party of 16 men, on his way to Washington city with a mail
and papers, an express from Com. Stockton, and Lieut. Col. Fremont, reporting that
the Californias were already in possession of the Americans under their command ;
that the American flag was flying from every important position in the territory,
and that the country was forever free from Mexican control ; the war ended, and
peace and harmony established among the people. In consequence of this informa
tion, I directed that 200 dragoons under Major Sumner, should remain in New
Mexico, and that the other 100, with two mountain howitzers, under Capt. Moore,
should accompany me as a guard to Upper California. With this guard, we con
tinued our march to the south, on the right bank of the Del Norte, to the distance
of about 230 miles below Santa Fe, when, leaving that river on the loth Octo
ber, in about the 33d deg. of latitude, we marched westward for the Copper
mines, which we reached on the 18th, and on the 20th reached the river Gila,
proceeding down the Gila, crossing ana recrossing it as often as obstructions in
our front rendered it necessary ; on the llth November reached the Pimos vil
lage, about SO miles from the .settlements in Sonora. * * * We crossed the Colo
rado about 10 miles below the mouth of the Gila, and, marching near it about 30
miles farther, turned off and crossed the desert a distance of about GO miles without
water or grass. On the 2d December, we reached Warner s Rancho, (Agua
Caliente,) the frontier settlement in California, on the route leading to Sonora. On
the 4th we marched to Mr. Stokes s raucho (San[ta] Isabella,) ; and on the 5th
were met by a small party of volunteers, under Capt. Gillespie, sent out from San
Diego, by Com. Stockton, to give us what information they possessed of the enemy,
000 or 700 of whom are now said to be in arms, and in the field throughout the terri
tory, determined upon opposing the Americans, and resisting their authority in the
Country. Encamped that night near another rancho (San[ta] Maria) of Mr. Stokes,
about 40 miles from San Diego. * * *
Very respectfully, your obdt. svt.,
S. W. KEARNY, Brig. Gen., U. S. A.
BRIG. GEN. R. JONES, Adjt.-Gen. U. S. A.
General Kearny s letter, curiously enough, makes no mention of the
proximity of the hostile Californians, although he tells of the camp at
the rancho Santa Maria. Referring to Lieutenant Emory s journal, we
find that, under the date of December 5, he says :
"We arrived at the rancheria after dark, where we heard that the enemy was in
force 9 miles distant, and, not finding any grass about the rancheria, we pushed on
and encamped in a canyon, two miles below. * * * A party under Lt. Hammond
was sent to reconnoitre the enemy, reported to be near at hand. By some accident
the party was discovered and the enemy placed on the qui vive. We were now on
the main road to San Diego ; all the by-ways being in our rear, and it was therefore
deemed necessary to attack the enemy, and" force a passage. About 2 o clock a. m.
the call to horse was sounded."
Captain Johnston, who was killed in action at San Pasqual, in his
last entry, December 4, tells of hearing rumors of the enemy, but does
not mention at what time the Americans broke camp.
Before proceeding with the account of the battle which took place
next day, it is necessary that we know something of the Californians
on the opposing side.
About the time that Kearny was crossing the Colorado, General
Flores, comandante of the Californians, sent Captain Andres Pico south
to cut off the return of a party of Americans understood to have left
San Diego for the region of Santa Isabel. Pico failed to connect with
the Americans, but, nevertheless, remained in the south, making his
headquarters at San Luis Key and Santa Margarita. Located thus he
cooperated with Captain Cota, who headed another band of Califor
nians, in keeping supplies fro^ the Americans. Nothing definite is
known of Pico s movements up to December 5, when we find him
encamped at the Indian village of San Pasqual. His purpose, it seems,
was to cut off the return of Gillespie, whose departure from San Diego
was known. We already know from Kearny s letter, that Gillespie had
succeeded in connecting with Kearny s force on the fourth of December.
However, Pico was ignorant of this fact, as he knew nothing of General
Kearny s presence in California.
Although there is conflicting testimony upon this point, it is reason
able to assume it true, for if Pico had been aware of Kearny s presence
he would hardly have acted as he did. Osio, a California writer, claims
that Pico had no idea of Kearny s proximity, when he camped for the
night at San Pasqual. According to Osio, Pico s first intimation of the
presence of Kearny was given by an Indian, who rushed into Pico s
camp that night and told him that an American captain with more than
two hundred men was encamped a short distance away, and had been
joined by another American captain from San Diego.
According to Osio s account, the Indian, wishing to save Pico from
surprise, told him of Kearny s intention to fall upon him unawares in
the morning. Upon hearing this, Pico gave the order to mount and
prepare to fight against four times their number.
On the other hand Palomares, a lieutenant in a company of Califor
nia riflemen,, claims that Pico left Los Angeles with a force of thirty
men, expressly to follow Kearny, whose presence in California was
known. According to Palomares account, Pico arrived at San Pasqual
in a rain, at about 8 p.m. Not wishing to fall in a trap, he sent two of
his men, Pablo Vejar and Ysidro Alvarado, to spy upon Kearny. Palo
mares gives a vivid account of how Pico and his men waited all night
in a drizzling rain for the return of these two spies who, as was after
wards learned, had been taken prisoner by a patrol of Americans. Palo
mares mentions the same incident of the Indian informant, as was men
tioned by Osio, saying that at one, o clock in the morning an Indian
approached camp, telling of an impending American attack. He was
questioned by Pico, who refused to believe his story. The Indian left,
only to return half an hour later with news of the approach of the
Americans. This time his story was believed and Pico ordered his men
to mount and prepare for attack.
Both Osio and Palomares agree fairly well concerning the warning
received by Pico and his preparations. However, Palomares statement
that Pico left Los Angeles with thirty men to attack Kearny is not rea
sonable, for the Californians were not accustomed to making attack
upon parties four times their number. Osio is undoubtedly right in his
contention that Pico was unaware of Kearny s approach, and in this
statement he is borne out by Botello, another contemporary, who claims
that Pico afterwards told him that he had not wished to fight, but was
forced to it by circumstances which made it impossible to do otherwise.
If Pico had not wished to fight, as he claims, he could hardly have been
following Kearny with the intention of attacking him.
Referring to Emory s journal we find that the Americans broke camp
in the early morning of December 6, reaching the vicinity of San Pas-
qual about daybreak. The order of march was as follows: Captain
Johnston commanded an advance guard of twelve dragoons mounted on
the best horses; close behind was General Kearny with Lieutenants
Emory and Warner of the engineers, and four or five of their men;
next came Captain Moore and Lieutenant Hammond with about fifty
dragoons, many of them mounted upon mules, followed by Captains
Gillespie and Gibson with twenty volunteers of the California Battal
ion. Lieutenant Davidson was next in line, in charge of the two how
itzers, with a few dragoons to manage the guns, which were drawn by
mules; and finally the rest of the force, between fifty and sixty men,
brought up the rear under Major Swords, protecting the baggage.
Reaching the top of a slight rise, the Americans saw the village of
San Pasqual spread before them. The Californians were drawn up to
receive a charge. Ordering a charge, Captain Johnston proceeded
down the slope at a gallop, followed by his men. He and his twelve
dragoons being the best mounted, rapidly drew ahead of the main body
of the Americans, and by the time they had reached the waiting Cali
fornians, they were alone. The Californians, taking advantage of this
fact, stood fast, discharging a volley, then receiving the Americans with
lances set. Captain Johnston fell dead at the first volley, with a bullet
through his head, and several others were wounded. A furious hand-
to-hand conflict took place, which was terminated by the arrival of the
main body of the Americans, at which Pico s men fled, hotly pursued
by the Americans.
However, the extreme variety of mounts soon became evident in the
relative positions of the various pursuers, the American line being
strung out for more than a mile. What Pico s plans up to this stage
of the -battle may have been no one knows for certain, although Oslo
claims that Pico feigned a retreat to lure the Americans on. However
this may have been, after running some distance to more open ground,
Pico suddenly wheeled his column, and rushed back to meet the Ameri
cans. The conflict, though brief, was desperately fought. The Ameri
can firearms were practically useless on account of the rain and the
time needed to reload, so the conflict resolved itself into a hand-to-hand
struggle of clubbed guns and sabers against the lances of the Califor
nians. The Americans fought bravely against heavy odds, for their
mules were unmanageable, and their sabers too short to cope effectively
with the long California lances.
This hand-to-hand combat raged for several minutes. When the first
fury of the assault had somewhat abated the rest of Kearny s forces
arrived with the two howitzers, and the Californians again fled. The
Americans were in no condition to pursue and indeed found themselves
in a very unhappy plight. Emory says, "Our provisions were
exhausted, our horses dead, our mules on their last legs, and our men,
now reduced to one-third of their number, were ragged, worn down by
fatigue, and emaciated. Since the mules were unable to transport the
dead and wounded it was decided to camp at the site over night in order
to bury the dead. This was done as secretly as possible under the cover
of darkness, amid the howlings of a myriad of coyotes, who had been
attracted to the scene of battle. Emory s description of the camp that
night doubtless not only describes the place but also reflects the spirit
of the men, for He says, "Our position was defensible, but the ground,
covered with rocks and cacti, made it difficult to get a smooth place to
rest, even for the wounded. The night was cold and damp, and not
withstanding our excessive fatigues of the day and night previous,
sleep was impossible."
The exact number of casualties on either side cannot be determined,
since there are about as many different reports given as there are nar
rators to give them. However, a fairly close estimate places the Ameri
can dead at eighteen, with fifteen wounded. It is doubtful if there were
any killed among the Californians, although several contemporaries
speak of one Californian being killed. An estimate of all accounts
places the Californians wounded at twelve, two of them seriously.
Kearny himself was wounded, and Captain H. S. Turner assumed com
mand, dispatching Lieutenant Godey and three others to San Diego
Early on the morning of the seventh Kearny again took command,
and started his ragged detachment on its way to San Diego with the
threatening Californians disputing their advance. When they arrived
at the San Bernardo rancho it was found to be deserted except for a few
Indians, but water was obtainable for the animals and several chickens
were killed for the use of the sick. No grass was found for the stock
so they pushed on toward the river bed, driving many cattle with them.
At this juncture the Californian horseman again made an attack upon
the rear of the advancing army. Emory describes it thus :
"We had scarcely left the house and proceeded more than a mile, when a cloud of
cavalry debouched from the hills in our rear, and a portion of them dashed at full
speed to occupy a hill by which we must pass, while the remainder threatened our rear.
Thirty or forty of them got possession of the hill, and it was necessary to drive them
from it. This was accomplished by a small party of six or eight, upon whom the Cali
fornians discharged their fire ; and strange to say, not one of our men fell. The capture
of the hill was then but the work of a moment, and when we reached the crest, the
Californians had mounted their horses and were in full flight. We did not lose a man
in the skirmish, but they had several badly wounded. By this movement we lost our
cattle, and were convinced that if we attempted any further progress with the
ambulances we must lose our sick and our packs."
Map 1. Contemporaneous map by Lieut. Col. W. H. Emory.
It was decided to stay there and await reenforcements from San Diego
as the condition of the troops was such that to proceed further would be
suicide. The numbers of the Californians were constantly increasing.
Kearny had no way of knowing whether or not Godey had evaded the
natives and reached San Diego. When it was learned that the Cali
fornians had several American prisoners they were forced to consider
the serious situation they were in. It was decided therefore to try to
get another message through to San Diego. Lieutenant E. F. Beale of
the Navy, Kit Carson, and an Indian volunteered to attempt the perilous
journey. Senator Benton thus describes the preparation for their
"The brief preparations for the forlorn hope were soon made ; and brief they were.
A rifle each, a blanket, a revolver, a sharp knife, and no food ; there was none in the
camp. General Kearny invited Beale to come and sup with him. It was not the
supper of Anthony and Cleopatra ; for when the camp starves, no general has a
larder. It was meagre enough. The General asked Beale what provisions he had to
travel on ; the answer was, nothing. The General called his servant to inquire what
his tent afforded ; a handful of flour, was the answer. The General ordered it to be
baked into a loaf and be given to Beale. When the loaf was brought, the servant said
that was the last, not of bread only, but of everything ; that he had nothing left for
the general s breakfast. Beale directed the servant to carry back the loaf, saying that
he would provide for himself. He did provide for himself ; and how? By going to the
smouldering fire where the baggage had been burnt in the morning, and scraping from
the ashes and embers the half-burnt peas and grains of corn which the conflagration
had spared, filling his pockets with the unwonted food. Carson and the faithful Indian
provided for themselves some mule beef."
Guided by the skill of Kit Carson, the three men eluded the besiegers
and separately made their way to San Diego during the second night.
There they found that Godey had successfully given the news of
Kearny s plight and that Commodore Stockton had already started a
relief expedition on the way to San Pasqual.
The Smithsonian Institute at Washington, D. C., has erected a tablet
to the memory of Beale and Carson in commemoration of the heroism
displayed by them at this time. Since this tablet shows so well the
attitude of this great national museum toward this battle, the inscrip
tion is given in full :
"BEALE AND CARSON HAILING STOCKTON S FLAGSHIP
"AN INCIDENT OF THE MEXICAN WAR
"Kearny, sent from Santa Fe to occupy California, was met and defeated by the
Mexicans at San Pasqual. The American forces were driven upon a butte in the desert
on which there was no w r ater-and there surrounded by the Mexican forces. Edward F.
Beale and Kit Carson, the famous explorers of the West, volunteered to go through
the Mexican lines and get reenforcements from Stockton s fleet at San Diego. They
succeeded in crawling past the cordon of Mexican sentries in the night and by hiding
in ravines in the day and traveling by night they reached Stockton s flagship, after
enduring great hardship."
In the meanwhile the besieged Americans, who had been subsisting
several days on the flesh of emaciated mules and the little water they
Carson- Beale tablet in the Smithsonian Institute From Sabin, "Kit
could obtain by digging, planned to make another desperate attempt to
proceed to San Diego. The surgeon reported upon December 10 that
the wounded were able to make the journey and the order was given to
make ready for a march early next morning. Emory then reports:
"We were all reposing quietly, but not sleeping, waiting for the break of day, when
we were to go down and give the enemy another defeat. One of the men, in the part of
the camp assigned to my defence, reported that he heard a man speaking in English.
Tn a few minutes we heard the tramp of a column, followed by the hail of the
sentinel. It was a detachment of 100 tors and 80 marines under Lieutenant Gray,
sent to meet us by Commodore Stockton, from whom we learned that Lieutenant
Beale, Carson, and the Indian had arrived safely in San Diego. The detachment lefl
San Diego on the night of the 9th, cached themselves during the day of the 10th,
and joined us on the night of that day. These gallapt fellows busied themselves till
day distributing their provisions and clothes to our naked and hungry people."
This union of the two American forces entirely disconcerted the
plans of the native Californians, and before sunrise they had with
drawn toward the north, leaving Kearny and his enlarged army undis
turbed in their further advance. They arrived at San Diego upon the
morning of December 12.
Thus ended the battle of San Pasqual, the most famous and the most
sanguinary of California history. Although technically the Americans
may claim a victory, since they remained in possession of the field, it
is probable that another such "victory" would have been disastrous.
There has been much comment made upon the battle at San Pasqual,
and the general tone of critics is unfavorable to General Kearny. Ban
croft, in particular, has characterized the attack of Kearny as a stupid
blunder, Hittell also blames Kearny, but his tone is much less severe.
He says in part : There can be no doubt that the attack on San
Pasqual was a mistake on the part of Kearny, who did not sufficiently
take into consideration the condition of his forces, nor sufficiently appre
ciate the forces of the Californians. Sabin, a more recent writer, says
that it is probable that in this case Kearny was ill-advi.sed by both
Gillespie and Carson, upon whom he relied for guidance. He says:
"Gillespie was burning for revenge to counterbalance his discomfiture at Los
Angeles. He made light of the California valor. So did even Kit Carson, who, in
common with other mountain men of the Southwest, thought little of Latin
courage. After their easy conquest of New Mexico, when the march from Bent s
Fort to Santa Fe, the capital, had been practically undisputed. General Kearny
and his officers and men also were inclined to dismiss the Californians curtly.
Influenced by the contempt of Gillespie and Carson, and not realizing that here
the fight was with free Californians accustomed to more initative than the New
Mexicans, General Kearny s council decided to push on for San Diego, and to attack
the enemy if they were opposed. In this plan was sound military sense. Boldness
would win a way, whereas hesitancy might result in the little force being shut off
from the sea and all supplies, and. by a constantly increasing foe, confined helplessly
inland while their chances grew less."
Military critics may differ as to whether the policy pursued by Gen
eral Kearny was in keeping with the best military tactics, Be that as
it may, this battle w r ill take its place in California s history as one
Avhich not only shows forth boldly the courage and fortitude of the men
who composed the American Army on the one hand, but also the dash
and skill of the irregular California cavalry on the other hand. It
constitutes an important incident in the American Conquest of Cali
LOCATION OF THE BATTLE SITE.
In order that the true site of the battle might be determined, all
obtainable data such as contemporary reports and maps, and other
early maps of the region, were carefully studied and compared with
the recent topographical maps prepared by the United States Geological
Survey. Of greatest value in this work was the sketch map of these
engagements prepared by Lieutenant Colonel W. II. Emory, who accom
panied this expedition in the capacity of topographical engineer. With
the exceDtioii of the course of the San Bernardo (or San Dieguito)
River, w r hich is indicated by Emory as running east of the American
camp of December 7-11, the map mentioned is exceedingly accurate and
gives sufficient number of recognized topographical features to permit
an accurate location of the places mentioned in the report.
In this map the American advance is shown to have approached the
scene of the engagements from a ridge crossing the river (then dry)
at the Indian village of San Pasqual, where Pico s band was drawn up
to meet them. This village is located near a small detached hill or knoll
standing near the head of the valley apart from those forming the walls
of the valley. The line of retreat is then shown down the valley on the
same (north) side of the river to a place where the hills to the north
seem to recede, forming a wider, more open plain. On this* open plain
the second and most desperate of the engagements was fought and here
the Americans camped December 6.
After retreating between two small hills on the north side of the
valley, Pico s forces are shown to have taken up their third position
across the valley at a point where the highlands converge. Should the
Americans proceed down the valley this would be an advantageous
point to resist them. It did in fact force Kearny to take to the low
hills to the north of the valley, while Pico held the valley probably some
what in advance of the Americans. After proceeding some distance
along the north edge of the valley the Americans turned sharply to
their left and were attacked by the Calif ornians as they ascended a
hill on the other side. The former were then forced to take up a posi
tion upon this hill, and there they awaited reinforcements.
Guided by the map of Colonel Emory and the recent United States
Geological Survey sheets, the Director of the Commission marked the
approximate location of the various battle sites upon the topographical
sheet. Two points seemed to permit of definite location. The Indian
village of San Pasqual, at which the first engagement was fought, is
undoubtedly the same as the village by the name upon the topographical
map, and also it seemed safe to assume that the third engagement,
which was fought on the south side of the valley, took place upon the
peak now known as Battle Mountain. On account of the absence of
any scale of miles accompanying Emory s map, the distances shown
thereon can not be accurately determined and are therefore only rela
tive distances. The position of the second engagement was fixed in
relation to the two points just mentioned as well as by other correspond
ing features in both the contemporaneous and recent maps.
Having made these preliminary observations and indicated them
upon the topographical maps, the Director of the Commission, in com
pany with Assemblyman Fred Lindley and others, visited San Pasqual
Valley on February 22, 1920, to determine the accuracy of these con
clusions and to decide if possible whether the land accepted by the State
by virtue of Statutes 1919, chapter 272, as the battle site, is the actual
battle ground, or if there were sufficiently definite information avail
able to determine such site.
San Pasqual Valley is a small valley about nine miles long, and varies
in width, from one-half a mile to two miles. At the upper or eastern
end of the valley the river, which is dry except during the rainy season
of the year, emerges from a relatively narrow canon. The general
topography is strikingly like that shown on Emory s map. A small
round knoll stands at the head of the valley upon the north side of the
river. There is now a farm house here, but it is said once to have been
the site of an Indian village. The hill mentioned is now usexLas a
cemetery. While inspecting this site numerous Indian arrow heads and
bits of pottery were discovered in the surface dirt, indicating that it had
been the location of an Indian village. The tradition of the old-time
residents of the valley makes this the site of the first engagement, and
there can be but little doubt that the historical records confirm this
From this place we passed down the valley in an endeavor to locate
the site of the second engagement, closely following the route indicated
as that of the two opposing forces. Here again the map of Colonel
Emory was found to be of great value, for his delineation of the
topography, particularly the highlands forming the north wall of the
valley, is very suggestive and there can be no doubt of their identity at
the present time. Local tradition places the scene of tin second battle
about two miles from the first, at a place where the valley widens due
to an opening in the hills from the north. It is here that the land
deeded to the State is located. In view of the close resemblance between
Emory s map of the battle, the topographical sheets issued by the
United States, and the actual physical features, the Director of the
Commission was not surprised to find that this traditional battle site
was exactly upon the point as previously marked by him as the result of
his preliminary study of the historical evidence. He is therefore fully
satisfied that the land deeded to the State is the site of the battle of
December 6, 1846. This is especially true when it is remembered that
this was a cavalry battle, and probably covered many acres of ground.
There can therefore be but little doubt that the battle was fought over
the ground selected, and it is furthermore very probable that it may
have been the site of the camp upon the night of December 6.
From this point we proceeded farther down the valley. The present
road passes between two small elevations to the north of the main valley,
very suggestive of those shown on Emory s map. Near there the
strategic value of Pico s third position across the valley at a narrow
point is very evident, while on the other hand the low hills north of the
valley have a gentle slope, thus making it possible for Kearny s army
to ascend them and thus by watching the enemy in the valley to guard
against attaek. Traveling here was but slightly more difficult than
upon the valley floor, until they approached the more mountainous
region through which the river approaches the sea. It is probable that
here the guides warned Kearny that they must turn to the south in
order to avoid the mountains if they desired to proceed to San Diego.
Pico s band seems to have been ahead of them, probably on the route to
San Luis Rey, his headquarters. At any rate the American army s
descent into the valley was not opposed, but as they crossed over to the
southern side and were ascending the slope they were attacked from the
rear by Pico s men. They were then forced to take up this position
upon the small peak now known as Battle Mountain.
The one serious defect in Emory s map is met in locating the latter
part of the route just described, as he indicates the San Bernardo
River as running to the east of the site of this third battle, when in
reality it runs to the north of the peak, and was crossed by the Ameri
cans just before the third attack of Pico s men. Serious as this may
appear, it may be easily explained without calling into question the
accuracy of his other observations. It must be remembered that
although the date was in December, he describes the river as being dry.
AVlien the writer was there late in February, after a three days rain,
the river was just beginning to show signs of life and was even then
not more than a good-sized creek. It is therefore very probable that, the
Americans crossed the dry river bed without recognizing it. Further
more the topography here is somewhat deceiving to one who has not had
opportunity to examine it carefully. The valley comes to an end in a
canon which suddenly grows narrow and because of a sudden turn in
the river might give the impression, if no running water was to be seen,
that it was only a side canon rather than the outlet to the valley. On
the other hand, the gentle slope of the valley wall on the south with a
wide lateral valley might easily lead to the belief, as evidently enter-
tained by Emory, that the river passed through between these hills on
the south side of the valley. When also it is remembered that the
Americans were greatly handicapped while making their way across the
valley floor, since the mounted Californians, not far away, were prob
ably already preparing for an attack, there can be little wonder that
Emory did not succeed in determining the exact course of the river
channel. Later from the summit of Battle Mountain these points could
not be determined.
Based upon the exceedingly valuable map of Emory and the informa
tion contained in the numerous other contemporary accounts there can
be but little doubt but that the sites of the three engagements can be
located with all the accuracy required in cavalry battles such as these
were, and that the land accepted by the State of California as a gift
from William G. Henshaw and Colonel Ed Fletcher under the provisions
of the Statutes of 1919, chapter 272, is the true site of the battle of
December 6, 1846.
Many methods have been suggested as suitable means of marking this
battle site. Probably the best is that prepared by Colonel Ed Fletcher,
one of the donors of the site, who recommends the construction of a
community house built of adobe and tile, with a suitable boulder marked
and placed in a good location in front of the building, with a tablet
calling attention to the event commemorated. An inscription either
upon the boulder or on the walls of the house itself should give the
names of those killed and wounded. Action of this character on the
part of the State would not only mark the spot but also encourage the
local people to care for the surrounding landmarks. Assurance has
been given that should the State see fit to make a small appropriation
toward a suitable memorial, the remainder would be raised within the
HISTORICAL SURVEY COMMISSION.
OWEN C. COY, Director.
Bancroft, H. H., History of California. New York, 1912.
Bonsai, Stephen, Edward Fitzgerald Beale. San Francisco, 1886.
Cooke, P. St. George, Conquest of New Mexico and California. New
Cutts, James M., Conquest of California and New Mexico, Philadelphia,
Dellenbaugh, Frederick S., Fremont and 19. New York, 1914.
Emory, William H., Notes of a Military Reconnaissance. Washington,
Hittell, Theodore H., History of California. San Francisco, 1898.
Hughes, John T., Doniphan s Expedition. Cincinnati, 1847.
Sabin, Edwin L., Kit Carson Days. Chicago, 1914.
Botello, Narciso, Anales.
Cornick, Homer II., The Battle of San Pasqual.
This excellent summary of the events of the battle, made under the supervi
sion of the Commission, was used very largely as the basis of the historical
Coronel, Antonio F., Cosas de California.
Forster, John, Pioneer Data.
Moreno, Juan B., Vida Militar.
Osio, Antonio M., Historia de California.
Palomares, Jose F., Memoria.
Vejar, Pablo, Recuerdos, de Un Viejo.
9872 4- * \ 2M
^< T* w-o ce.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY